5 HS students benefit from Student Diversity Leadership Conference

Ava Cason '22, Yenni Gonzalez-Salinas '21, William Grobmyer '22, Jayden Sheats '22, and Jordan Turner '22 attended the National Association of Independent Schools-hosted conference focused on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community.
By Roderick White, Office of Diversity & Community Life Director

The first week of December 2020 brought with it the People of Color Conference and the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools. 

Five USN High School students attended SDLC, held virtually Monday, Nov. 30 through Friday, Dec. 4. According to the SDLC website, the conference "is a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders (grades 9-12) from across the U.S. and abroad. SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community. Led by a diverse team of trained adult and peer facilitators, participating students develop cross-cultural communication skills, design effective strategies for social justice practice through dialogue and the arts, and learn the foundations of allyship and networking principles." 

When asked to reflect on one thing that stuck out to them, Ava Cason '22 felt that a key takeaway for her was a discussion on gender identity.

"I thought this was an interesting conversation to take part in because as a cisgender woman I have way more privilege in life as I’ve resonated with what society deems a woman and haven’t had to question my identity. This experience really opened my eyes to the frustration and liberation that comes with being nonbinary or gender-fluid," Ava shared.

William Grobmyer '22 said, "One thing that stuck out to me the most was the discussion with my Family Group, specifically on how our daily interactions can turn into prejudices; this process leads to the formation of stereotypes surrounding certain minorities and can also play a hand in systemic oppression. At the prejudice step, we must make a conscious decision: do we open our minds to new experiences, or do we let our fear of change, instilled in us as a result of human nature, guide our decision-making?" 

Jordan Turner '22 reflected, "Looking back, it was both educational and enlightening on how people can have similarities while still having differences based on their race, gender, ethnicity, and economic status. I enjoyed being able to collaborate with others and hearing from people's own experiences and using it to help them and myself plan for the future."

Other students offered learnings from the conference applicable to the added mental and emotional stresses of 2020.

"I think a good thing to bring back to USN would have to do with mental stability. It could be beneficial to give examples of ways that USN students could deal with stress internally," Jayden Sheats '22 offered.

Yenni Gonzalez-Salinas '21 echoed Jayden's thoughts. "We discussed a lot on the idea of recovery in the sense of finding our sparks, voices, and passions again. 2020 has been a hard year on all of us and an interesting one to say the least, so being able to connect with people about how we can get back on our feet to find our voices that we lost is super empowering," Yenni said.

Students participated in activities and learning opportunities, such as small group discussions, affinity groups, and keynote speakers with topics covering race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, and other identifiers.
    • Student leaders participated in the 2020 Student Diversity Leadership Conference virtually.

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